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Sample Undergraduate Marketing Dissertation Proposal

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Suggesting Marketing Communication Strategies to Retain and Improve the Number of Alumni Associated with Télécom Paris Alumni

Introduction

Maintaining good relationships and keeping alumni (former students) involved is essential for universities to get benefits such as material or immaterial donations such as volunteer work.

The choice of universities by new students depends mainly on the reputation and image of the university the alumni create. Moreover, alumni through their social network can influence the new students’ university selection decisions in favour of their alma mater by recruiting the graduates passing from their university. Besides, they can make investments within institutions to improve the reputation of the institutions.

Johnson and Eckel (1997) found that a strong alumni relationship with their institutions helps develop leadership and financial support for their institutions.

To gain financial support from the alumni, the alumni must have a strong connection not just with the Télécom Paris Alumni (TPA) (association of former engineering master’s students) but also with the Télécom Paris. In this regard, the institutions need to identify what makes alumni increase their involvement.

In addition, the alumni involvement with their institutions can be in the form of alumni leaders, alumni board members, and trustees. Besides, as per literature, alumni can play a significant role in promoting the institution to potential students, businesses, society, community leaders and government (Gaier, 2005).

As per Svoboda and Harantova (2015, p. 669), “Building of good relationships between higher education institutions and their students is essential for their long-term success.” This highlights the importance of retaining and increasing the alumni and their involvement with the Télécom Paris and TPA.

However, this present study’s problem is the difficulty the universities face in making former students join and stay involved with their universities.

It can be argued that alumni involvement with their universities may depend upon various factors such as; loyalty, satisfaction, reputation, networking and donation. In the proposed study, the case study of Télécom Paris (a leading public higher education and engineering institute in France) is used to be conducted.

Alumni are one of the primary sources of financial support for Télécom Paris, and therefore its depends significantly upon them. In view of this, the aim of this study is to evaluate marketing communication strategies presently used by TPA and suggest marketing communication strategies that TPA can use to retain and improve the number of alumni associated with TPA and their involvement with Télécom Paris.

Moreover, the relationship between the alumni and their alma mater (Télécom Paris and TPA) is to be analysed statistically to determine whether alumni members of the TPA are presently associated with their former institute and the TPA.

Context of the Research

The context of this research is related to marketing. A marketing strategy (especially a digital marketing strategy) is suggested, which the TPA can implement to retain and increase its alumni.

The alumni involvement with the institution has various benefits, such as fundraising. Identifying and implementing the digital marketing strategy that can help improve alumni involvement and retention is of paramount importance for the TPA and Télécom Paris.

Research Topic / Synthesis / Diagnostics

In the past studies, the factors impacting the retention and involvement of alumni with their institutes and association bodies are discussed.

However, limited evidence is found where the marketing strategy (especially the digital marketing strategy) is suggested to be implemented by the institutes and association bodies to increase the retention and involvement of alumni.

Therefore the research problem of this study is related to identifying the digital marketing strategy which the TPA and Télécom Paris can implement to retain the alumni of TPA and increasing their number and involvement with TPA and Télécom Paris. In view of this, ingthis study’s research question is focused on finding out the effectiveness of social media marketing strategy in retaining and increasing the involvement of the former students of TPA and Télécom Paris.

In addition to the main research question, this research also focuses on measuring the relationship between alumni and their alma mater. The following alternative and null hypotheses will be statistically tested to measure the relationship between the alumni and their alma mater.

H1: Social media marketing has significant positive relationship with alumni retention

Ho: Social media marketing do not have a significant positive relationship with alumni retention

H2: Social media marketing has significant positive relationship with alumni involvement

Ho: Social media marketing do not have a significant positive relationship with alumni involvement

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Methodology

This study is intended to be completed by employing a mixed research method, using the qualitative and quantitative research methods. To perform qualitative research, it is planned to use some semi-structured interviews over the phone with the management personnel of the Télécom Paris and TPA to collect qualitative data regarding the marketing communication strategies presently used by the TPA and its effectiveness in retaining and attaching their alumni to Télécom Paris.

The interviews will be audio-recorded to ensure that the collected data is stored. Ethical approval and consent from the participants will be obtained. The qualitative data will be interpreted using thematic analysis and interpretative approach (Bryman & Bell 2015).

However, to conduct quantitative research, a survey based on a closed-ended questionnaire will be conducted online to collect quantitative data from a sample of Télécom Paris alumni regarding the relationship or involvement of the alumni with the TPA and the effectiveness of social media marketing communication strategies in retaining and increasing alumni’s participation.

The same survey method was employed by Svoboda and Harantova (2015) to evaluate the marketing efforts by the universities to building good relations between the university and alumni.

Besides, in this research, Snowball, non-probability sampling technique will be used to reach a sample of Télécom Paris alumni. The probability sampling technique was also used in a similar study conducted by Wairagu (2011).

Because to Saunders (2011, p. 240), “Snowball sampling is commonly used when it is difficult to identify members of the desired population” As in this present study, the Télécom Paris alumni are challenging to reach. Therefore, it is appropriate to select the snowball sampling technique to reach the research participants.

The quantitative data will be analysed statistically using frequency distribution analysis, bar charts, and Pearson’s correlation analysis (Field, 2013). Hypotheses will be developed and tested based on the results of Pearson’s correlation analysis.

Pearson’s correlation analysis will determine the relationship of social media marketing with alumni retention in TPA and involvement with Télécom Paris.

Brief Literature Review

The past studies related to alumni involvement with their institutes and the factors (including marketing) influencing alumni to stay connected and involved with their institutes are discussed below.

Various studies provide evidence regarding the relationship and involvement of alumni with their institutes (Hartman & Schmidt, 1995). Gaier (2005, p. 270) defined alumni involvement as “alumni giving and/or alumni participating with their alma mater within the last three years”.

A limited number of studies have been found in the literature where the marketing strategy that can increase alumni retention and involvement are discussed. One such study was conducted by Wairagu (2012) using a survey method to evaluate which Universities use marketing communication tools in Kenya to manage alumni relations and how effective there are in managing alumni relations.

Based on the quantitative data analysis, it was found that alumni associations and or alumni officers (which are appointed by the universities) tend to manage the alumni relations.

Moreover, it was found that the universities use various marketing communication tools to manage alumni relations, where online or social media advertising was found to be the most effective marketing tool in managing alumni relations.

Two social media platforms, namely; Facebook and Twitter, were the most effective amongst all the social media marketing tools for alumni contacts, developments, reunions, and effectively communicating the news update.

However, for alumni fundraising, direct marketing and personal selling were the most effective marketing tools, where alumni officers physically visit and meet the alumni.

Whereas, for alumni awards and recognition activities, it was found that the event sponsorships and publicity/public relations (for instance, alumni talk and campus tours) are the most effective marketing tools.

Another study regarding the marketing efforts to improve alumni satisfaction with the university and its image while building good relations between the university and alumni was conducted by Svoboda and Harantova (2015).

Based on alumni perspective, it was found that the institutions must ensure that their alumni are satisfied to retain them and to promote the university. It is because only satisfied alumni tend to promote the university through positive word of mouth.

Gaier (2005) also analysed alumni satisfaction with their institutes and their respective impact on their involvement and participation with the institutes.

Based on the correlation results, alumni satisfaction was positively related to alumni involvement with their institutes. More satisfied alumni tend to have high participation and participation with the institutes.

Elizabeth (2002) found that mentoring programs enable alumni to stay connected with their institutes. Guevara and Stewart (2011) conducted survey-based research to find alumni perceptions regarding satisfaction with courses.

It was found that alumni satisfaction with the course is impacted by career relevance. The strategic importance of the alumni network was evaluated by Ventolini and Mercier (2017).

The alumni network with strong connections amongst its alumni community and members was found to affect their institutions’ resource acquisition and reputation positively.

A recent study by Petrariu (2019) was conducted in Bucharest University to identify the motivating factors that influence alumni to stay connected and involved with their alumni association.

It was found that effective communication, transparency, and networking influence alumni to stay connected and involved with their alumni association.

Moreover, other benefits of staying connected with the alumni association were identified, such as; growth of connections with the business world and the development of the alumni association as an economic and financial think-tank.

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References

Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2015). Business research methods. Oxford University Press, USA.

Field, A. (2013). Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics. New York, SAGE.

Saunders, M. N. (2011). Research Methods for Business Students, 5/e. Pearson Education India.

Johnson, J. W., & Eckel, P. D. (1997). Preparing seniors for roles as active alumni, in J. N. Gardner and G. VanDerVeer (Eds.), The Senior Year Experience: Facilitating Integration, Reflection, Closure, and Transition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 227-242.

Gaier, S. (2005). Alumni Satisfaction with Their Undergraduate Academic Experience and the Impact on Alumni Giving and Participation Received. International Journal of Educational Advancement, 5(4), 270-288.

Petrariu, I. (2019). Understanding the Development of an Alumni Community: Conclusions based on a Conducted Survey. Ways to Support Alumni’s Employability and Foster Entrepreneurship. Annals of “Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati Fascicle I. Economics and Applied Informatics Years XXV – no3/2019.

Elizabeth, P. S. (2002). The Benefits of Establishing a Student/Alumni Mentoring Program. The Mentor: An Academic, Advising Journal, 4(4). Online; https://journals.psu.edu/mentor/article/view/61706/61351

Ventolini, S., & Mercier, S. (2017). Alumni network: a strategic resource for public academic programs? Vaira, 20(12), 1-18. Online; https://doi.org/10.4000/fcs.1940

Wairagu, M. K. (2012). The Effectiveness of Marketing Communication Tools on Alumni relations for Universities in Kenya. A research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Master of Business Administration degree, School of Business, University of Nairobi. September 2012. Online; http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/13226

Svoboda, P., & Harantova, M. (2015). Strategic Marketing in Higher Education from Alumni Perspective18th International Academic Conference, London, 25 August 2015, 669-679. ISBN 978-80-87927-11-3, IISES. DOI: 10.20472/IAC.2015.018.120

Guevara, C., & Stewart, S. (2011). Do student evaluations match alumni expectations?, Managerial Finance, 37(7), 610-623. https://doi.org/10.1108/03074351111140252

Hartman., D. E., & Schmidt, S. L. (1995). Understanding student/alumni satisfaction from a consumer’s perspective: The effects of institutional performance and program outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 36(1995), 197-217. Online; https://www.springer.com/journal/11162